“Spiritism and occultist practices as popular entertainment around 1900” by Judit Vidiella

Judit Vidiella explores the connection between maritime trade and the freedom of conscience that placed port cities at the forefront of articulating new societal ideals among the population around the turn of the 20th century. She is interested in analyzing how Spiritism circles built proper networks of communication and ‘uncanny infrastructures’ (Geoghegan 2016), focusing on the fundamental role that female mediums played as active agents in the change of consciousness by means of their ‘inspired’ messages and socio-political practices.

Engraving table moving, at la Ilustracion, Saturday 21 of May 1853, page 201. Biblioteca Nacional de España.

Occultist practices became a massive entertainment in Europe, when the magic and the scientific lived together and spirituality was given a positivist and scientific touch and supposedly empirical evidence in public shows and performances. This opens a field of research about the ‘spectatorial regime’ (Crary 1992) that had spiritist séances in common with other forms of popular entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th century such as cinema, hypnotist and magnetizer’s exhibitions or café-concert shows.

Poster for the "Magnatiseur" Donato. The coloured litography shows excerpts from the programme. In the centre of the poster is a large portrait of "Donato" and next to it a female artist. Around it, the artist "Donato" is depicted in a tailcoat with small scenes and with different emotions, for example: singing, eating, dancing and fighting. You can also see a hypnosis act and how the woman is made to levitate.
Le Magnetiseur Donato. Unknown Lithography (around 1880 and 1881). Musée Carnavalet, Histories de Paris, Inventory Number AFF956.
Advertisement for the movie "Más allá de la muerte" / "Beyond Death" in magazine, text in Spanish saying: "En Olympia esta tarde, a las 5 y por la noche a las 10, grandioso estreno del extraordinario y emocionante cinedrama original de Don Jacinto Benavente que lleva el título de “Más allá de la muerte” (premio Nobel en 1922). Filmado por la Casa “Benavente Film”, puesto en escena por Benito Perojo y adaptado a la pantalla por Lara Brunet, con ilustraciones musicales “ad hoc” y experiencias prácticas de hipnotismo por el Profesor Onofroff."
Advertisement for the movie „Más allá de la muerte“ / „Beyond Death“, El Diluvio journal, Tuesday February 1 of 1927, Year 70 number 27. Arca, Archive of Old Catalan Magazines.